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Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler, senior enlisted U.S. leader in South Korea, addressed various topics during his first appearance on “From the Top,” a live monthly radio program in which the community is invited to call or e-mail questions about life on the peninsula.

Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler, senior enlisted U.S. leader in South Korea, addressed various topics during his first appearance on “From the Top,” a live monthly radio program in which the community is invited to call or e-mail questions about life on the peninsula. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Area II residents will see improved shuttle bus service, Camp Casey will be one of the last 2nd Infantry Division camps to close and vehicle ownership rules aren’t going to change, the senior enlisted U.S. leader in South Korea told the military community Friday.

Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler addressed those topics, and others, during his first appearance on “From the Top,” a live monthly radio program in which the community is invited to call or e-mail questions about life on the peninsula.

Wheeler, who on May 6 took over as command sergeant major for U.S. Forces Korea, 8th U.S. Army, Combined Forces Command and the United Nations Command, was joined on-air by Area II Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Witt.

Witt said improved shuttle bus service is right around the corner, but he provided few details.

“I know everyone out there in Area II is wondering about the buses,” he said, referring to the flood of e-mail and phone calls he’s received since the bus shuttle service was trimmed earlier this year due to funding.

He said officials “found a way to do some things” with curtailed services.

“You’ll see a change next week for the better,” he said. “Hopefully that satisfies the needs of our community.”

Area II officials were unable to provide additional information by early Friday evening.

One caller said that as a noncommissioned officer, it’s tough to see young family members driving around the post when the soldiers aren’t allowed to own cars.

“The only thing I can say to leaders of all services … when they entertain this issue from their troops, is to explain the black and white of the issue,” Wheeler said. “The policy is not going to change.”

The real issue, Wheeler said, was drinking and driving incidents and young soldiers injuring or killing themselves or others in accidents.

“And that’s not OK, that’s not what we’re here to do,” Wheeler said.

“My message to the leaders would be to get on with the task at hand,” he said. “The policy is the way it is … I’d rather see them … explain to their subordinates that that’s just the way it is … and to worry more about whether their troop can hit what they aim at instead of what the (vehicle) policy is.”

Wheeler, who joined the Army in 1973 and who served twice previously in South Korea, said the Army hasn’t changed that much since he first donned the uniform.

“It still all boils down to doing the basics well,” he said.

Leaders who succeed in the service worry about what they can control, Wheeler said.

“They focus down on their subordinate instead of up on what they can’t control, whether that be the (vehicle) policy or what law Congress is gonna pass next.

“When the ‘you-know-what’ hits the fan, how bad do they want their soldiers to be able to don their protective mask in 15 seconds?” Wheeler asked. “That’s what they need to focus on.”

Wheeler also answered a call from a soldier concerned about how quickly Camp Casey would close as USFK transforms its troop presence in South Korea. Thousands of U.S. troops are moving south to the Pyongtaek area, near Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base, under an Amended Land Partnership Plan.

He said the soldier shouldn’t worry.

“I do know that it’s one of the enduring installations that’ll be around for a few more years, at least,” Wheeler said. “Camp Casey, Camp Stanley … are two of the larger installations with services for all of the troops that are there so they’re going to be around the longest.”

A few questions brought up the issue of funding for U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.

“I don’t want to get into money,” Wheeler said. “I’m an NCO and I worry more about the mission than the money. I just go out and take care of business and I’m sure that’s what all good leaders do.

“But we’re a nation at war. And that’s the bottom line,” he said. “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist,” to figure out most of the money will go toward the main objective of winning the war on terrorism.

“It’s understandable why we may not see as much (funding) this direction as going in another direction, so we all have to be understanding of that fact, and accept it, and do the best with what we have.”

Wheeler also took the time to thank the troops for the work they do in South Korea.

“I’d like to thank all the troops, all the servicemembers, peninsula-wide … thank them for their service and for what they do each and every day,” Wheeler said.

“You know, when I get a little unmotivated I just go out and talk to some troops and they always lift my spirit,” Wheeler said. “What they do every day here in Korea is very important to our nation, important to the nation of Korea. I hope they take pride in that fact.”

He also said he would be back on air next month, fielding questions.

“I’ve got a tough skin, they can bring it on,” he said. “I’m ready to deal with it.”


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